Retired DC 37 Leader Helps Rescue Couple from Burning Car on Staten Island

Retirement has not slowed down former Local 1320 President and 9/11 Ground Zero volunteer James Tucciarelli, who put his own life at risk to help others Saturday, Nov. 23.

That night, the long-time DC 37 leader, along with two police officers and a neighbor, helped save two people trapped in a burning car.


James Tucciarelli

Tucciarelli was driving home on Mill Road in the Oakland section of Staten Island when he saw a crashed vehicle in flames near his house.

After pulling over and getting out his car, he heard cries from the woman in the front passenger seat of the burning vehicle and immediately went to help. The vehicle was starting to fill up with smoke as he pulled her out to safety.

“She said he couldn’t move her leg,” Tucciarelli told WABC-TV Eyewitness News. ”I said, ‘It may hurt, but I’ll move it for you’—and I got her leg around.”

As he was carrying her out, a neighbor arrived to help.
Once Tucciarelli removed the passenger from the burning car to safety,

Tucciarelli raced back to help the woman’s boyfriend, who was unconscious in the driver’s seat.

“I was able to reach in and unbuckle the seat belt,” Tucciarelli said. “Flames were coming through floorboard, and the vehicle was starting to fill up with dark smoke. I couldn’t breathe – I had to get out of the vehicle.”

That’s when a police officer arrived, broke open the window to get the smoke out, and rescued the driver.

Both the victims and Tucciarelli were rushed to the hospital, where they are still recuperating.

“I’m not a hero or anything,” Tucciarelli told Eyewitness News from his hospital bed.  “We’re human beings – anybody would do that.”

Tucciarelli,  who retired earlier this year, served as a DC 37 leader for more than three decades and was a strong advocate for fellow 9/11 responders who were exposed to deadly toxins at Ground Zero.

As the president of Sewage Treatment and Senior Sewage Treatment Workers Local 1320, Tucciarelli fought tirelessly to protect the jobs and improve the lives of the city employees whose dedicated service keeps New York’s communities safe, clean, and healthy.

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